Emotions ran high in Abuja yesterday at a forum marking the third anniversary of the abduction of more than 250 students of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State by the Boko Haram sect.
Mrs. Rebecca Samuel, mother of one of the missing Chibok girls, wailed along with leading lights of the Bring Back Our Girls group (BBOG), including Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, Hajia Aisha Yesufu and Maureen Kabrik, demanding that President Buhari lead a military expedition to the North-East.
They wondered why many of the girls remain in captivity for this long in spite of government’s promises.
There were also lamentations about the state of the nation while the fate of the Nigerian girl-child resonated strongly .
Chairperson of the lecture and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, Prof. Grace Alele-Williams, alleged inadequate official response to the missing girls.
The guest lecturer and Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi 11, raised the stake in the search for the abducted girls, saying that while the current interest in bringing them back should be sustained, it is important to ask questions about the conditions in the country.
The questions, he said, include where are they being brought back to? What kind of society? How much better is the ‘normal’ environment we all take for granted than Boko Haram camps?
“These questions ultimately force us to face the reality that the kind of society we have created in fact is the root cause for the emergence of groups like Boko Haram and occurrences like the Chibok tragedy,” he said in his video message played at the lecture.
He added: “As we remember the girls captured in Chibok three years ago, we must remember that they constitute only a fraction of the victims of the Boko Haram insurgency.
“I would urge BBOG while you keep this issue of Chibok on the table, to broaden your message to cover all girls and boys abducted by Boko Haram, and also draw attention to the condition of girls and women in our society in general.
“To give you an idea of the extent of this problem as at today, in Dalori 2 IDP camp near Maiduguri alone, there are over 1,500 Boko Haram abducted girls who are either pregnant or carrying babies, and who have been freed by the military.
“Hundreds of orphaned children are being carried away to unknown destinations and they are all gone into oblivion due to society’s neglect.
“It is therefore critical for the Bring Back Our Girls movement to gain much broader support in the populace and be more effective, to use the dramatic case of the Chibok girls as a referent and a plank, but not the exclusive focus of its struggle.”
The emir’s video message was beamed to the audience before his daughter, Shahida,
read out the speech.
A measure of outrage swept through the hall when the emir disclosed that he could not attend the event because some people want him to stop talking.
His words: “Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing.
“I recently gave a speech in which I said the North-East and North-West of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat, the noise is yet to die down.
“But what really are the facts? The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the UNDP in 2015 published data on the incidence of poverty in Nigeria showing that, on the average, 46% of Nigerians are living in poverty.
“This is based on the UN’s Global Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index which focuses on Education, Health and Living Standards. Although this average is in itself bad, it masks even more serious internal inequalities and incidences of extreme poverty by region and gender.
“So, for example, the South-West of Nigeria has less than 20% of its population living in poverty while the North-West has more that 80% of its population living in poverty. In the North-East the figure is 76.8%. Over 90% of the people in Yobe and Zamfara States are living in poverty compared to 8.5% in Lagos and around 11% in Osun and Anambra states.
“The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls.
“There are those who believe these attacks are aimed at discrediting me personally, but even if that is the objective, it will not work.
“I can only be discredited by what I have done and not by insults and lies on the Social-media. And in any event, personal criticism has no impact on the issues.”
He declared that those who do not want him to speak on Nigeria’s ills will have the next generation to contend with.
“Those who are opposed to my views and those who think I’m a problem have a much bigger problem to deal with in the next generation of Sanusis.
“They are far more radical, they are more progressive, they are far more committed, they are far more fearless.
“So, maybe it is time for us to address these issues before those group of tigers come to the scene,” the Emir stated in the video message shortly before his daughter, Shahida read a prepared text.
Alele-Williams queries FG, NASS, military, others
Alele-Williams, 84-year-old first Nigerian female vice chancellor and Nigeria’s first Professor of Mathematics Education, who was chairman of the occasion, emphasised that Nigerians must persistently ask questions to wake up the authorities from slumber
According to Alele-Williams, who walked to the rostrum in crutches, it is puzzling that the majority of the abducted Chibok girls remain in captivity for three years while the authorities, including the military and federal legislators representing the area appear somewhat passive about the issue.
She asked: “What stops the Nigerian Army, police and others in uniform from bringing back our girls?
“What exactly stops our army, our country from bringing back our Chibok girls when they tell us that they have destroyed those people (Boko Haram) and are winning the war against terror?
“Is it really part of the priority agenda of the Federal Government or any governor in the North East to bring back our girls?
“Is the three years because we are too lazy to take decisions and make careful plans that would ensure that our girls are brought back?
“In a country like America that cares for its citizens, the abduction of just one individual will lead to serious efforts to immediately bring back that individual.
“I don’t understand, please help me. Help the families of Chibok girls who are also wondering why people from somewhere will abduct our girls and we all don’t know what to do for three years; I am ashamed.”
‘My father not afraid to give up his throne’
In another well-received speech delivered after reading a prepared text on her father’s behalf, Shahida Lamido Sanusi, a petite mother of one with degrees from universities in South Africa and New York, USA emphasised that those who expect the Emir to keep quiet are mistaken as he’d rather lose the throne.
She said: “Some people say that my father would keep quiet because he will be expected to. But I think they don’t know my father because I know that he had always wanted to be the Emir of Kano, but to him , if it comes between doing what is right, what his conscience tells him and choosing his throne, he would happily give up his throne.
“My father has always been after fighting for what is right. It is a part of us now. We are not scared anymore. It is very normal. Honestly, I think that if it is anything, then it is a source of inspiration.
“He never fails to fight for what is right. He fights for progress, liberty, justice and equality.
“So those people that think that they know my father should know that he will never be silenced by any intimidation.
“He once lost his position and I don’t know if you remember one of his famous quotes after being suspended at CBN where he said ‘You can suspend a man but you can never suspend the truth’.
“One of his favorite quotes is from Marcus Aurelius that whenever one is confronted with a choice between what is right and what is popular, you must always choose the right path.
“He taught us and I know he does not mind being the most unpopular Emir so long as he tells the truth.
“As for the throne, he always says it is God who gives power and he can take it away whenever He says your time is up. But before then, nobody can do anything.
“I am sure my dad will love to remain an Emir for the rest of his life. After all, it was all he wanted to be. But I know he would not hold on at all cost.
“I remember he was once given an award as a man of integrity, and to me, that was everything.
“It is doing the right thing that matters.
“So I know if my father has to choose between the throne and doing what is right, he will happily do it as he has already accomplished what he set out to do – he is a banker and an Emir.
“He has not changed and will be the same person even as the ex-Emir of the council. But he will not be silenced. That much I know.
“And we, as a family, are all behind him, whether or not he is in the arena.
“This is a struggle for not just his immediate family but for everyone.”